“Call Me Trimtab” is the inscription Buckminster Fuller chose for his tombstone because he realized that this simple concept allowed him to make the greatest impact with the least effort. Here is how he described the Trimtab concept:
“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trimtab.
It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trimtab.
Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, ‘call me Trimtab.’”
Most people believe that they can direct any endeavor if they have enough energy and resources. They believe that a ship’s huge rudder (or the politicians “governing” their nation or city) control the direction of the endeavor, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Steering the ship or the government takes place as a result of a very small, precisely placed effort. This is the Trimtab, and its how we can each make the greatest impact with our individual lives.
The direction of the great ship that Bucky Fuller named Spaceship Earth is also the result of Trimtab actions and not the activities of governments, corporations or other organizations. Those Trimtab actions can only be initiated by individual humans. No government, corporation or institution has ever had an original thought or taken an action. Only individual people can do these things, so only individuals can be Trimtabs.
“Leaders” of corporations, governments and institutions try to steer things by pushing on one side or the other, but they are failing because the are competing against one another and they have yet to find the Trimtab. Their actions are akin to many people all trying to push a huge ocean liner from different places along its hull.
Very few realize that the ship can be easily maneuvered with minimal effort using its Trimtab. This is also true of our everyday activities at work, at home or with any endeavor or project. For example, it is more effective and efficient to publish an article online or write a book than it is to try sharing that information with one person at a time.
Using Bucky’s Trimtab Principle, which the Buddhist call Skillful Means, we can communicate with and influence hundreds if not thousands of people with nearly the same effort as it takes to communicate with a single person. That is not to say that people should not continue communicating with other individuals and small groups. However, if you want to influence large numbers of people, Trimtab is the way to go. This is particularly true at this critical moment in human evolution.
We need to shift our collective perspective and actions if we are to create a world that works for everyone, and nothing is more effective in doing that than Trimtab. Throughout his life Bucky Fuller proved Trimtab to be viable, and his final request was that we call him Trimtab.
May we all use the Trimtab Principle to support the success of all life on Earth.